For Many MCC/TSTC Students a Strong Start is Crucial for Success. FastTrack to College Can help.

By Janet Phelps

A lack of knowledge and basic skills can have devastating effects on adults who want to go to college. Just ask Amber*, a 20-something student who came into my office at McLennan Community College last week and told me she wanted to go back to school.

Amber had recently lost her job at a fast-food restaurant and had been unable to find work since. In her two semesters at MCC before she dropped out, Amber had racked up $7,000 in student debt by accepting her entire financial aid package — subsidized and unsubsidized loans — and using the money for living expenses while enrolled in college.

How many credits had she earned? Not nearly enough. Amber still needs to complete her developmental education requirements – collegespeak for remedial classes that students who aren’t college material must take to catch up.

Facing repayment of her debts without a job or a college degree seems impossible to Amber, a first-generation college student who is financially independent and will be considered in default on her loans next month.

One possible way to help Amber and students like her is to help them get a stronger start into college by helping them perform better on the state college entrance test.

Around 60 percent of students entering MCC test into development education annually through the TSI, the state’s college entrance test. Those students must complete classes to improve skills they need for college-level courses before they can start taking courses that count toward a degree. For students like Amber, taking these classes burns through financial aid without improving earning potential or economic status.

A state-wide effort is being made to help students avoid developmental education classes. Local schools and colleges are also working to fill this gap.

McLennan_AEL_Transition_Flyer2015Adult Education and Literacy for the Heart of Texas is among the organizations tasked with helping these students. That’s why we’re creating classes meant to help transition adults from all walks of life to get into college and be successful.

Because the MCC program is funded by the Texas Workforce Commission, we have the unique ability to offer these not-for-credit classes at a very low cost to students.

The first FastTrack to College class will equip students with the college knowledge they need for success including financial literacy and financial aid knowledge, career awareness, computer literacy, time management, and study skills. The class will also prepare students academically in reading, writing, and math to take the TSI, which is included in the $10 cost of the class. The class will be taught by MCC instructors and supported by officials from MCC and TSTC whose goal is for students to transition into college courses at those institutions in the fall.

This class is the first of what will become regular offerings of college-readiness classes through Adult Education to help students test out of developmental classes and build the confidence and skills they need to successfully complete their degrees.

So what can you do?

Refer people who want to go back to college and need extra support to this class. The process of signing up includes filling out an application, taking a placement test and completing a short goal-setting interview with a career navigator Adult Education.

For many Wacoans who are stuck in dead-end jobs, a technical certificate or associates degree from TSTC or MCC is the key to pulling an entire family into a stable financial position.

Our hope is that our efforts — along with those being made by other departments and organizations in this community — will boost the economic status of low-skilled adults and help students like Amber overcome knowledge gaps that threaten her success.  Here are the details:

FastTrack to College class
Monday – Thursday
June 8 – 25, 2015
8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
McLennan Community College campus

To learn more about or to sign up for the FastTrack to College Class, contact Adult Education at 299-8053 or email Janet at [email protected]. Click here for a flyer to share with anyone you know who might be interested in this program.

*Amber is a pseudonym for a student who did not give permission for her name to be used on this blog.

Janet PhelpsJanet Phelps is the Transition Specialist for Adult Education and Literacy for the Heart of Texas at McLennan Community College. She loves helping students, reading, and running at Cameron Park.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.

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